There are any number of reasons you may need a storage unit, but before you entrust your possessions to a business, go through these steps to make sure they’re legitimate and reliable.
Why Is It Important?
The self-storage industry is not very tightly regulated at state or federal levels, which means that unscrupulous storage companies can get away with all kinds of cut corners and questionable business practices.
In fact, according to a report by the Better Business Bureau (BBB), more than 6600 complaints were filed against storage companies in 2018 (Moving & Storage Companies, Storage, and Storage Units) making it one of the most active sectors for complaints in the United States.
You can imagine the devastation and frustration people experience when they open their storage unit and find their possessions damaged by mold or water or otherwise lost, all because of using an illegitimate storage company.
Check for BBB or Similar Accreditation
Most countries have an independent body that reviews businesses’ operations, facilitates complaint resolution, and confers accreditation to companies that pass their review process. In the United States, this body is the Better Business Bureau (BBB). In Europe, it’s the European Consumer Centre (ECC).
While not all businesses are registered with the BBB, it’s a good place to start. BBB accreditation is only given to companies that meet strict requirements: required bonding and licensing, no unresolved customer complaints, consistent contract fulfilment, and more.
If you’re just beginning your research, the BBB, ECC, and similar bodies have directories that will help you find legitimate local storage companies. If you’ve found a storage company whose services and prices interest you, but who is not registered with an independent business reviewer, you may still be able to trust them, it just means you’ll have to check the above criteria on your own.
Read Online Reviews
Reading online storage company reviews is one of the most popular ways consumers check the legitimacy and trustworthiness of a business before buying a product or signing a contract.
If a company has consistently received many poor reviews, that’s a red flag and you should probably strike them from your list. If you have special storage needs — climate control, 24-hour security, very long-term storage — look for reviews that address these services and see what people had to say about them.
You’ll also want to look at how businesses have responded to negative reviews. If the company consistently fails to respond, or responds in a universally unsatisfactory way, be very careful about entering into business with them. This means that, should a problem or dispute arise, it probably won’t be dealt with in the best way.
Check for Insurance Policies
Proper insurance is paramount when it comes to using a storage unit company, as service agreements will typically exonerate them from paying for any damages to your possessions. Enquire directly with the company if they offer insurance, or if they have a provider they regularly work with. If they can’t answer either question, you’re better off looking somewhere else.
If you’re going with a company that’s not accredited by the BBB or a similar body, be sure to ask for proof that they have the proper insurance required to operate. Insurance for general, premises, product, and completed operations liability should all be present. If they’re not, the company may not be in a position to cover the costs of damages, even if a judge finds them responsible.
Visit the Storage Facilities and Check the Units
Visit the facilities and check the units of a few different companies in your area before making any commitments. Take the time to carefully inspect the following criteria:
Cleanliness and dryness
Not only is this a good indicator of general professionalism, but the overall cleanliness of the unit will have a big impact on how your items fare over the months or years. If there is any dirt, rubbish, or especially mold present anywhere in the unit, it could spell disaster for your possessions. Mold spreads quickly, and dirt can carry bacteria that break down paper and other items. If there’s any humidity, that’s also a bad sign.
You may be responsible for the unit’s cleanliness while your items are in storage, but you’ll have peace of mind knowing you’re starting off with a clean space.
Ask the storage provider what security features they offer. Padlocks alone won’t be enough to keep a determined thief out of your storage unit. Who can access the grounds, and when? What kind of locking mechanisms are used — mechanical or electronic? Is there on-site security, and how often do they patrol? What kind of video surveillance is in place? How about smoke alarms? Have any break-ins occurred, and how were they handled?
Specialty services and features
You may be surprised to learn that many household items require special features for long-term storage.
Clothing and furniture, for example, do best in climate-controlled storage units, where heat and humidity can be kept at bay. The same goes with paper products, woodwork, and certain kinds of home-renovation supplies like tiling and linoleum.
How about 24-hour access? Are you storing the kinds of things you may need to pick up at the drop of a hat?
Do you need indoor or outdoor storage access? Outdoor storage units, similar to a garage, are more accessible with a car, while indoor storage units are typically more secure and easier to protect against the elements.
You should approach renting a storage unit with the same scrutiny as when making a big purchase, like a new refrigerator, computer or car. After all, you’re entrusting your personal possessions to a business, and while there are many excellent providers out there, there are also some less trustworthy ones.
By following the above guide and taking the time to research a few local options, you can feel more confident about storing your possessions and ensure they’re kept safe and free of damage.